Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drug cartels fund a tenth of Mexico's economy... AS OBAMA LEAVES US UNDEFENDED!

Mexico vote goes ahead despite slain candidate

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — Drug cartels fund a tenth of Mexico's economy.

They have infiltrated many local and state police forces and staged assaults on army bases. Now they're violently inserting themselves into politics, killing the leading candidate for governor of a northern state only days before Sunday's elections in 12 states.
The assassination of Rodolfo Torre in the border state of Tamaulipas on Monday capped the deadliest month yet in President Felipe Calderon's military-led offensive against drug traffickers. Carefully planned attacks — including an ambush that killed 12 federal police officers — have served as chilling reminders that Mexico's drug cartels can get to anyone, anywhere, armed with sophisticated weaponry and billions of dollars to pay off informants.
Mexican officials said Sunday's voting would go forward as planned, including in Tamaulipas, where Torre's replacement as candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party had not even been named.
But even as Calderon's government urged citizens to stand up to the cartels by turning out to vote, Mexicans increasingly see the cartels — not Calderon — as having the upper hand.
"Organized crime has voted," the national newspaper Reforma wrote in a front-page editorial Tuesday. "What's the point of having elections when a de-facto power is imposing its will over the will of citizens?"
Throughout Mexico, the cartels have had a strong impact on this year's campaigning. The mayor of Cancun, who was running for governor of Quintana Roo state, was arrested last month on charges of protecting two cartels. In Sinaloa and other states, assailants have lobbed grenades at party offices. And rumors abound about candidates who just might be on the take from one or another of the powerful drug organizations.
The assault on Torre's campaign caravan was typical of a cartel hit. Gunmen intercepted his convoy as it headed to the airport, indicating they knew exactly when he would be passing by. The body of the candidate and four others in the caravan lay strewn on the street, suggesting they had tried to flee.
Mexicans took the hit to be part of a feud between the Gulf cartel and a gang of hit men who split from it known as the Zetas, who have been battling in Tamaulipas this year.
The Zetas have grown into a formidable drug trafficking organization in their own right, with operations reaching deep into Central America, and the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels have teamed up to fight their new, common enemy.
The Zetas, former members of a military intelligence battalion sent to fight the cartels, joined forces with the Gulf cartel in the 1990s and increasingly began controlling life in Tamaulipas. In addition to drug smuggling, they began extorting money from businesses such as restaurants, car dealerships and junkyards. They kidnapped people for ransom and charged "fees" to migrant smugglers and other drug traffickers.
More recently, gunmen believed to be from the Zetas have staged bold attacks on security forces in Tamaulipas, setting up roadblocks and assaulting army garrisons, armed with grenades and semi-automatic weapons.
Now, they may be trying to determine who runs the state.
Torre was the second candidate killed in Tamaulipas in the run-up to Sunday's elections: Jose Guajardo Varela was gunned down in May after ignoring warnings to drop out of the race for mayor of Valle Hermoso. Several parties have complained they can't find anyone to run for office in some Tamaulipas towns because it's too dangerous.
"The freedom that we had three, four or five years ago in Tamaulipas and in Mexico is gone," said Gustavo Cardenas, a former Tamaulipas senator who promised his family he would not run for office this year to avoid becoming a target. "This is only the beginning. This is the product of great corruption, of great impunity."
Many took the attack on Torre as proof of long-standing allegations that his party, known as the PRI, has protected the Gulf cartel in Tamaulipas.
"Their candidate is Tamaulipas was assassinated because of its complicity," said Adriana Davila, a candidate for governor of central Tlaxcala state running for Calderon's National Action Party.
But Mexico's interior minister, Fernando Gomez Mont, called Torre an honest man with no hint of corruption in his past.
And some PRI activists in Tamaulipas said that might be what got him killed.
Mauricio Cerda, who runs a PRI-aligned citizens' political organization in Ciudad Victoria, sees Torre's killing as a message to current Gov. Eugenio Hernandez, who has angered drug cartels by appealing for more federal troops and police in the state.
"It was a strong message for the governor: 'Don't rock the boat,'" he said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.








June 28, 2010

Wrong Track DistressBy BOB HERBERT

It’s getting harder and harder for most Americans, looking honestly at the state of the nation, to see the glass as half full. And that’s why the public opinion polls contain nothing but bad news for Barack Obama and the Democrats.

The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the war in Afghanistan and, above all, the continuing epidemic of joblessness have pushed the nation into a funk. All the crowing in the world about the administration’s legislative accomplishments — last year’s stimulus package, this year’s health care reform, etc. — is not enough to lift the gloom.

Mr. Obama and the Democrats have wasted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity handed to them in the 2008 election. They did not focus on jobs, jobs, jobs as their primary mission, and they did not call on Americans to join in a bold national effort (which would have required a great deal of shared sacrifice) to solve a wide range of very serious problems, from our over-reliance on fossil fuels to the sorry state of public education to the need to rebuild the nation’s rotting infrastructure.

All of that could have been pulled together under the umbrella of job creation — short-term and long-term. In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Obama’s historic victory, and with the trauma of the economic collapse still upon us, it would have been very difficult for Republicans on Capitol Hill to stand in the way of a rebuild-America campaign aimed at putting millions of men and women back to work.

Mr. Obama had campaigned on the mantra of change, and that would have been the kind of change that working people could have gotten behind. But it never happened. Job creation was the trump card in the hand held by Mr. Obama and the Democrats, but they never played it. And now we’re paying a fearful price.

Fifteen million Americans are unemployed, according to the official count, which wildly understates the reality. Assuming no future economic setbacks and job creation at a rate of 200,000 or so a month, it would take more than a decade to get us back to where we were when the Great Recession began in December 2007. But we’re nowhere near that kind of sustained job growth. Last month, a measly 41,000 private-sector jobs were created.

We are in deep, deep gumbo.

The Obama administration feels it should get a great deal of credit for its economic stimulus efforts, its health care initiative, its financial reform legislation, its vastly increased aid to education and so forth. And maybe if we were grading papers, there would be a fair number of decent marks to be handed out.

But Americans struggling in a down economy are worried about the survival of their families. Destitution is beckoning for those whose unemployment benefits are running out, and that crowd of long-term jobless men and women is expanding rapidly.

There is a widespread feeling that only the rich and well-placed can count on Washington’s help, and that toxic sentiment is spreading like the oil stain in the gulf, with ominous implications for President Obama and his party. It’s in this atmosphere that support for the president and his agenda is sinking like a stone.

Employment is the No. 1 issue for most ordinary Americans. Their anxiety on this front only grows as they watch teachers, firefighters and police officers lining up to walk the unemployment plank as state and local governments wrestle with horrendous budget deficits.

And what do these worried Americans see the Obama administration doing? It’s doubling down on the war in Afghanistan, trying somehow to build a nation from scratch in the chaos of a combat zone.

By nearly 2 to 1, respondents to the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll believed the United States is on the wrong track. Despite the yelping and destructive machinations of the deficit hawks, employment and the economy are by far the public’s biggest concern. Mr. Obama is paying dearly for his tin ear on this topic. Fifty-four percent of respondents believed he does not have a clear plan for creating jobs. Only 45 percent approved of his overall handling of the economy, compared with 48 percent who disapproved.

It’s not too late for the president to turn things around, but there is no indication that he has any plan or strategy for doing it. And the political environment right now, with confidence in the administration waning and budgetary fears unnecessarily heightened by the deficit hawks, is not good.

It would take an extraordinary exercise in leadership to rally the country behind a full-bore jobs-creation campaign — nothing short of large-scale nation-building on the home front. Maybe that’s impossible in the current environment. But that’s what the country needs.

Wall St Owned Obama Sells Us Out To BP -

Obama and Cameron pledge to defend BP profits
By Hiram Lee
29 June 2010
US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron met this weekend during the G20 summit in Canada to discuss the ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the BP oil spill. The goal of the meeting, however, was not to coordinate cleanup and recovery efforts, but to once again give a US and UK government guarantee of the profits of BP.

A statement on the meeting released by Cameron’s office on Sunday reports that Obama and Cameron “agreed that BP should meet its obligations to cap the leak, clean up the damage and meet legitimate compensation claims. They also agreed that it was to both countries’ advantage for BP to remain a strong and stable company.”

The reference to “legitimate claims” was intended as a clear signal that the governments of the two companies would not press for full restitution of those impacted by the disaster. BP has used the same term repeatedly, even as it has delayed or denied claims. The language deliberately places the onus on the individual or business affected by the disaster to prove that their claim is in fact “legitimate.”

The US government’s commitment to limiting the liability of BP was underscored by comments from Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the $20 billion compensation fund, who will be tasked with mediating claims. During a town hall meeting in Larose, Louisiana on June 25, Feinberg declared, “There is absolutely no sense at all driving BP into bankruptcy. That would be a disaster.”

As for the statement that BP will remain “strong and stable,” put simply this means that the company should return adequate profits to its investors. The message sent to BP shareholders was received loud and clear. Reports of the meeting’s conclusions led to a rise of 3.99 percent in BP’s shares, which had fallen to a 14-year record low on Friday.

The meeting during the G20 summit was only the latest in a series of statements from both Cameron and Obama pledging their commitment to BP profits. Cameron warned earlier in the week, during an interview with CBC, that it was “in all our long-term interests that there is some clarity, some finality, to all of this, so that we don’t at the same time see the destruction of a company that is important for all our interests.”

Cameron sought to reassure critics of BP as well as company shareholders by claiming that the company had the best interests of the public at heart, saying “BP wants to cap the oil, it wants to clean up the oil, it wants to pay compensation to fishermen and hotel owners and people who have suffered and it should do that.” In fact, the interests of BP are in direct conflict with both a serious clean up and containment response, and adequate compensation for those whose lives have been devastated.

The prime minister added, “I believe it can and I believe it should and I believe it is in both Britain and America’s interests that BP remains a strong and stable company.”

As for the Obama administration, its response has been, from the beginning, to defend BP, the oil industry, and the expansion of deep-sea oil drilling.

While any just and rational response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster would necessarily include the criminal investigation and prosecution of BP executives, along with the seizure of the company’s assets for the purpose of funding an emergency response to the oil spill, the response of the Obama administration has been to minimize and cover up the size of the disaster, to protect BP from financial liabilities and to defuse public anger towards the oil giant.

As the Deepwater Horizon spill began, the Obama administration not only did not make any arrests, but instead left BP in charge of cleanup and containment efforts, insisting falsely that the oil company was the only body with the technology and expertise to bring an end to the spill. Obama also left unchallenged BP’s assertions that scientific data collected on site by the corporation was proprietary information that did not have to be made public. There can be no doubt that granting these rights to BP contributed significantly to the worsening of the disaster.

As public anger grew, the administration made a brief and fleeting reference to a possible criminal probe, but this has since been dropped.

While Obama made public relations appearances in the media during previous weeks intended to portray the president as “angry and frustrated” over the spill and BP’s handling of it, he met privately with BP CEO Tony Hayward to work out measures for limiting BP’s financial liability. The creation of a $20 billion fund, to be paid out over four years, was designed to create as minimal impact as possible on the company’s cash flow. The selection of Feinberg, with the full approval of BP executives, was intended as another signal to Wall Street and the City of London that the company’s bottom line would be protected.

Should the company be proven criminally negligent in its actions leading up to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster—and there is ample evidence to prove that it was—there would be no limit to the amount it would be forced to pay in compensation. The real cost of the spill could reach well beyond $1 trillion, far more than the company is worth.

The escrow fund was also an attempt to cover-up for the fact that the federal government has done nothing to mobilize social resources to respond to the disaster or to ensure proper compensation.

Meanwhile, the disaster caused by the oil giant continued to spread. A significant amount of oil has now washed ashore on the beaches of Mississippi. A thick oil sheen and tar balls made landfall on Sunday with at least seven of the state’s beaches affected. The further devastation of the fishing and tourism industries in the state, along with Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, are virtually guaranteed.